By Seth Richardson
Rare-earth metals are called “rare” because they are. And they are valuable because they are used in very small, but critical and irreplaceable amounts in much of our technology, from night vision devices for our military to cell phones.
Rare as they are, they are also essential strategic minerals, and the inability to obtain them can cripple our military and our civilian technology, which would cripple our economy and our national security. This fact makes it necessary for the United States to ensure unrestricted access to domestic rare-earth minerals.
Even the U.S. Department of Energy agrees with me in this, and is recommending that we must ensure a steady, reliable supply by re-opening our mines.
Unfortunately, thanks largely to the eco-nut anti-mining zealots in the U.S., some ninety percent of rare-earth mineral production now occurs in China, as a result of burdensome, deliberately obstructive regulation and huge financial liability risks that drove U.S. companies out of the mining industry decades ago.
This leaves the U.S. at the mercy of the Communist Chinese regime, who are, and have been for some time, tightly controlling exports and prices. China has been reserving most of its production for itself, to be used in it’s cell phone plants and by its military.
That has to change, and Colorado can be at the forefront of ensuring our strategic future in rare-earth minerals.
Molycorp Minerals, a mining company based in Greenwood Village, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild America’s rare-earth mineral mining capacity. Good for them.
What we have to do is to help them in this effort by shutting down the inevitable neo-Luddite anti-mining protests and frivolous lawsuits that are certain to avalanche down upon Molycorp Minerals from the ivory towers and gilded pedestals of the eco-nut fringe.
“Gold is where you find it” goes the aphorism of precious-metals miners everywhere. It means that minerals are found where the geological conditions of the past put them. You can’t grow gold, or ytterbium, in an alternate location to suit the tender sensibilities of aesthetic preservationists or eco-fascists. Where you discover it, there you must mine it. There is simply no way around that fact.
And since it’s in our national strategic economic and military interests to mine and refine rare-earth minerals domestically, we must therefore accept whatever environmental impacts are reasonably necessary in order to extract the materials where they are found.
This doesn’t mean that wanton destruction or negligent pollution is permissible, and Molycorp Minerals claims that technological breakthroughs in mining and processing such materials will largely eliminate the prior difficulties with pollution and escapes of processing chemicals that plagued previous efforts and caused literally all of the major rare-earth mines in the U.S. to be shut down.
But there will be impacts, and we have to reject the neo-Luddites and eco-fascists and their hysterical obstructionism and accept the fact that there will inevitably be some visual and environmental impacts from such mining. But what is gained is worth the sacrifice of the relatively small areas where such minerals are found in concentrations that can be mined economically.
We need to hold Molycorp Minerals to the highest standards of protection of the environment that are reasonably appropriate for the particular mine, but we must not allow federal environmental policy to be misused and abused by people who simply want no mining and no environmental impacts whatsoever anywhere by anyone for any reason, out of a misguided and deluded sense of eco-outrage over past mining policies or their own selfish preferences for a pristine environment.
It is critical that we rebuild our rare-earth mining capacity and that we do not unnecessarily or unreasonably obstruct the search for and exploitation of mineral lodes of these vital strategic national resources by imposing burdensome regulations at the behest of deluded people who cannot comprehend the strategic necessity of securing our own mineral wealth rather than being dependent upon a totalitarian Communist regime that is, at the core, utterly hostile and opposed to everything we believe in.
© 2010 Altnews